LOWER BRULE, S.D. (AP) – The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has banned alcohol sales on the impoverished central South Dakota reservation – a move critics say will kill the tribe’s Golden Buffalo Resort and Casino.
Tribal Chairman Michael Jandreau said he has seen too many people – including his own relatives – die of alcohol abuse.
“I’ve watched my friends and relatives become devoid of a lot of human respect. I couldn’t be part of that any more,” he told the Argus Leader.
The ban was in effect the entire month of June, and the Golden Buffalo recorded a $108,000 reduction in play and lost the $10,000 in bar sales it had the previous June. July numbers also included the loss of bar business and a $76,000 drop in casino play. The ban took effect in May.
Pat McNaughton, the casino’s marketing director, said income from gaming at the tribe’s annual powwow this month was the same as last year’s.
“We lost the bar income, but it wasn’t significant,” McNaughton said. “The difference between the bar and restaurant from a year ago was under $5,000.”
The reservation’s population is about 1,400.
Tribal member Ellen Wright, 59, said it was Jandreau who pushed to allow alcohol at the casino when it opened in 1991.
“Mike Jandreau wanted that casino. He wanted the alcohol,” Wright said.
Jandreau, who has been the tribal chairman for 30 years, insisted he wanted a dry casino but that the casino management said they needed alcohol sales and the council went along.
“I didn’t push for alcohol in the casino,” Jandreau said. “But I had a responsibility to follow the direction of the council.”
Gayle Ziegler, who cast the lone dissenting tribal council vote against the ban said Jandreau pushed for it out of spite because of possible competition. Her daughter, Vicki Her Many Horses, ran Tuffy’s, which sold alcohol near Lower Brule. Jandreau’s detractors said Tuffy’s could have been viewed as a rival to the casino.
Jandreau disputes Zeigler’s notion.
Her Many Horses said she thinks reservation residents should have the right to vote on an alcohol ban and that she thinks they would decide in favor of alcohol.
Jandreau said he knows the ban means some tribal members will drive off the reservation to buy alcohol, possibly creating a public safety issue. But he said the ban will reduce the number of 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds getting drunk on the reservation because access was so readily available.
“When I look at my grandsons,” he said, “I want them to have a running shot at life.”
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